With at least 350 different types of pasta made around the world, you could almost eat a different one on every day of the year. But why so many? There are obvious benefits for using a sheet of lasagne in a baked dish instead of serving it with a sauce, but it’s harder to see the difference between spaghetti and linguine, for example. However, almost every single variety of pasta (except the shapes purely made for the novelty factor) has certain attributes that makes it particularly suited to a certain dish – whether it’s a heavy, tomato-based sauce, a light broth, seafood in cream or dressed as a salad.
Outside Italy, we tend to assume pasta is universally enjoyed in every corner of the country. But there are massive regional differences; in the poorer south, a rough dough is created using semolina flour, whereas in the north, more intricate egg-rich pastas are enjoyed. While there are certain varieties that have found a home in kitchen cupboards throughout Italy, how pasta is served can even differ between neighbouring towns.
Industrially-produced pastas only emerged towards the end of the nineteenth century, which saw a huge shift in the way pasta was both made and the variety of shapes on offer. An article focusing on every shape of pasta made today would take up enough space to fill a book, so we’ve compiled a list of fifteen dried shapes available to buy in the shops, combining the most common and universally loved varieties with some rarely found outside Italy.